On the wall of a cave deep in the jungles of Borneo, there is an image of a thick-bodied, spindly-legged animal, drawn in reddish ocher.
It may be a crude image. But it also is more than 40,000 years old, scientists reported on Wednesday, making this the oldest figurative art in the world.
Until now, the oldest known human-made figures were ivory sculptures found in Germany. Scientists have estimated that those figurines — of horses, birds and people — were at most 40,000 years old.
Researchers have found older man-made images, but these were abstract patterns, such as crisscrossing lines. The switch to figurative art represented an important shift in how people thought about the world around them — and possibly themselves.
The finding also demonstrates that ancient humans somehow made the creative transition at roughly the same time, in places thousands of miles apart. [Continue reading…]